A Day No Pigs Would Die
by Robert Newton Peck
Pinky the Pig
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Wilbur. Babe. Porky. Piglet. (Okay, so none of those pigs are ordinary, but you get the point.)
But would Pinky really be at the center of an entire book if she was just a plain pet pig?
Of course not.
Life Before Pinky
Think about Rob's life before Pinky—his unspoken wish for a bike, his longing for a store-bought coat, his treat of homemade spruce gum. Yeah, there really isn't a lot in the way of luxury, or even comfort, that Rob can count on. Things are pretty bare-bones in the Peck household.
At least when she's little, this little lady is one of the few things in Rob's experience that isn't all about making ends meet. Pinky, in a way, is symbolic of everything Rob has been denied by the poverty and the strict principles of his family. She's what Mama might call "a frill." Fancy!
Sure, Pinky has to pay her own way by producing piglets, but that's not on Rob's radar at the moment. He's never really had anything of his own before, and at first he focuses on the fact that Pinky belongs to him. "She was mine," he tells us, "mine, mine, mine, mine!" (3.50) Rob goes on to talk about just how pretty she is, and he sure doesn't sound like he's calculating how much money she can bring in for the family. "She was clean white all over," he says, "with just enough pink to be sweet as candy" (3.51).
With Pinky around, Rob can just be a kid with his pig. (Key word: kid.)
Giving Her Up
If Pinky symbolizes all that for Rob, you can probably guess what it symbolizes when he has to give her up. It's as though he's giving up all the hopes and dreams of his childhood, all the frivolous, fantastic "frills" that now he'll never have. Depressing, right?
But there's a little more to it, we think. Why is Rob giving up Pinky? To help his family survive, right? And that's a pretty adult thing to do, don't you think?
So when Rob agrees to slaughter Pinky for his family's sake, it's kind of a symbolic moment for him: going from kid to adult. You might think this happened too early (he's only 13, for crying out loud!), but that's the way of the Peck family.
So what do you think: is it all downhill for Rob after losing Pinky? Or does his transition into adulthood carry some unexpected advantages?